Much of Breadcoin was obvious from the beginning:
- We certainly knew the “why” (people are hungry, and we all can and should meet one another’s needs).
- We knew where we would start (where our team was, in Washington, DC). We knew that there are many good-hearted people who want to feed and care for others (and that sometimes they don’t know quite how).
- We knew that the government isn’t meeting all the needs.
- And we knew that almost all of the most meaningful work happens at a local level, neighbor-to-neighbor, through invested relationships and not “us and them” thinking where one person is always the giver and another is always a receiver.
What has evolved is our methodology. That has been a matter of trial-and-error and of learning from those on the ground, seeing what plays out in reality vs. in theory in the most efficient, humane and dignified way.
Where we have landed is a membership model.
Yes, Breadcoins are (still) a great tool for someone walking down the street who encounters a person asking for money for food. We have always appreciated and prioritized having a physical token that one person could hand to another, hand to hand, eye to eye, and that could lead to meaningful conversation and, should the recipient want it, also lead to them receiving a mea at a vendor of their choice.
But there are far more people who want to help feed everyone, folks who don’t necessarily encounter the hungry directly in their day to day lives. And that’s where “membership” comes in. People commit to monthly donations of $25/month which puts ten Breadcoins in the hands of our neighborhood precinct teams. These teams are responsible for building a network of care within their area, linking the hungry with nonprofits that serve them (but that don’t necessarily have hunger as the main issue they are addressing), churches, and the food vendors that are at the heart of our model in a neighborhood (the place where the magic happens and a hungry person is fed and treated without stigma and with dignity, like any customer).
So people can purchase coins to use themselves or, through membership, can fund the coins that the on-the-ground folks distribute (with distribution based on prior months’ redemption rates). The teams that are most effectively getting Breadcoins into the hands of those who actually use them are the ones who get more coins to give.
Join us, will you? There are so many people who are hungry, and YOU can feed some every month.
Photo: Sharon Gustafson